HOLDING THE OPPOSITES
Helen reflects on what 2018 has shown her and some of the new emerging aptitudes for her as a designer and Artist in Residence at Za’atari Refugee Camp in 2019.
This city of the future zings between all our opposites.
Patience with urgency, trauma and joy, complexity with simplicity, between confidences deeply held, whilst gossip abounds, with what can be known, but not spoken of, to the most extreme manifestation – hope, in the same mind as despair. As if minds themselves, have developed new capacities to simultaneously hold and express these paired opposites, as one new emotion.
It is the internal language of adjustment to an emergency life and it is teaching me so much.
We step into this way of enforced living, seeking to do good, but I’m now fully aware we will always need to be ready to unlearn, learn anew, move forward, reverse, scrap, reinvent, bend backwards and forwards, in short, become willing tools of a new reality, daily.
In turn, my own language starts to become redundant - we use words like resilience, but I know now we don’t really know what that feels like, we use the word creativity, but not to save our own lives and we speak of collaboration, meaning with other people; in Za’atari you also have to collaborate with nature, with the wind, rain, snow and the scorch of the summer sun. Nothing works unless you do.
Za’atari is triumphant over extraordinary life limiting circumstances, children’s smiles beam through their whole bodies and I see previously unseen levels of fight, love and will in the eyes of their mothers.
What Za’atari and its formidable population are teaching me, is that there are new sets of skills required and they summon almost counter intuitive ways of being
The new skills, or perhaps they are aptitudes, require an ease with being totally uncertain, an ability to hold no attachment to my ideas, to not sound sure, or authoritative, yet, (if ever again) to stay with what I don’t know and to bear the misunderstanding, that this is somehow freefall, or without rigour, to the contrary; this needs to be the biggest conscious effort I will ever make – all of me is on the line.
The answers aren’t informed by past, or present knowledge, the future is asking me to be actively still, to allow the lesson and to pay deep attention to what happens when we partner the life that Za’atari lives.